Planning to fail.
Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Things aren't exactly going well for Speaker Paul Ryan. The Republican legislative agenda, which is largely his legislative agenda, seems to be going nowhere. Tax cuts, redesigning Medicaid, redesigning Medicare, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, large cuts to non-defense spending? None seem likely despite unified Republican control of government. The party has moved decisively against the kind of free-market, free-trade, immigrant-friendly policies that Ryan and his hero Jack Kemp once supported. And his personal polling numbers are terrible, the Republican majority in the House is seriously threatened in the 2018 midterms.
How did he get here? A series of mistakes starting back in 2011 has left Ryan ill-prepared for governing in 2017.
1. Vowing to Replace Obamacare
Immediately after taking the House majority, Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That wasn't the mistake. There's nothing wrong with the purely symbolic vote with Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House – that's actually an important function of the (presidential) out-party. The mistake followed, after Ryan, then chairman of the House Budget Committee, and four other House chairs published an op-ed pledging to develop a "replace" bill. Of course, nothing happened. No hearings, no legislation, no plan — just more and more messaging bills. That was not only a large lost opportunity, but it also raised false expectations among Republican voters of what Republicans might do if they took over Congress.